How to Make the Grade for College Costs
Jul 1, 2021
Seven financial tips to keep your child's education from becoming your school of hard knocks
It’s common for new parents to dream of sending their baby off to college. Most parents wait, however, until their child is graduating high school to begin researching financial resources that will achieve that dream. Whether you’re able to take advantage of an education savings plan or you’re struggling to pay for basics, the information provided below can help you help your child climb the rocky path to higher education.
Every working parent with a college-bound child should learn about FAFSA, which stands for “Free Application for Federal Student Aid.” There, you will find resources listed and a central electronic application for various loans, grants, work-study programs and more — all based on your income tax returns and personal financial situation. Every year that your child is in college, you will need to fill out the form again. It’s worth the effort, as you could help your child achieve great dreams without taking further financing.
To meet FAFSA deadlines, file your tax returns immediately upon the arrival of your W-2 forms, well before April 15. If that’s impossible, you can use returns from specific prior years. Be sure to complete the application correctly. Mistakes take time to fix, which can cost you student aid dollars that are awarded on a first-come, first-served basis. When applying, be sure to collect several documents beforehand. The National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (NASFAA) offers a lot of supportive tips, tools and advice online.
BUDGET AND PREPARE
As with every life goal, you’ll be better prepared if you prepare focused, concrete strategies rather than carring a vague “it’s expensive” mindset. Try this calculator and view this tutorial to get a clearer picture of the amount of savings and other funds you’ll probably need. Honda FCU can help you set up savings, such as 529 plans and the Coverdell Education Savings Account (ESA), which offers tax advantages. Talk with an adviser about the advantages and restrictions involved. You can set up painless automatic deductions from your pay when your child is small.
Savings bonds, the two types of 529 plans and Honda FCU’s student loan alternatives can also help. Because you’re a member, your child qualifies for Honda FCU membership, and you should set up a joint savings accounts that will empower your child to save for the future. Contact Honda FCU Investment and Insurance Services at (800)-634-6632.
FINANCIAL AID PROGRAMS
Financial aid is a broad term that includes loans, scholarships, grants and work-study programs. It’s available both privately and from government sources. While loans and work-study programs can be helpful, the most advantageous are scholarships and grants that require no repayment (though there may be other requirements such as maintaining a specific GPA). NASFAA provides information on different types of programs. While most programs will look at your FAFSA application first, you should also contact the financial aid offices of any chosen schools and ask if they need additional applications for their own programs. Visit sites like Scholarships.com and Fastweb for free scholarship searches.
STUDENT LOAN OPTIONS
It’s worthwhile to search online and learn more about private student loans. Also, FAFSA and individual college financial aid programs cover government-backed and some private loans. Make sure you also check Honda FCU’s options for low-interest loans. Depending on your financial situation, homeowners could consider a mortgage or a home equity loan. A Honda FCU secured or unsecured Anything Loan might be another option. Contact a Honda FCU loan adviser at (800) 634-6632 to learn more.
FIND HELP PAYING FOR SCHOOL SUPPLIES
The national average cost of books and supplies reportedly hovers around $1,100 per academic year, with that figure continuing to rise. Financial aid can cover some of the costs, though probably not all. You may be able to offset high prices on sites like Amazon that offer discount textbook sales and rentals. A lot of families need assistance due to economic uncertainties and job losses. Several charities, like the Salvation Army, provide free school supplies and some financial aid for low- to moderate-income families.
USE CREDIT WISELY
It’s always a good idea to protect your credit score. Credit can be a powerful tool that leverages your earnings into great accomplishments. The higher your score, the more you can achieve, including your child’s higher education. Once your student arrives in college, you should continue to monitor and manage your credit, especially if you’ve signed for a credit card or a home equity line of credit. College thrusts students into new situations at school that require difficult — often costly — decisions. Continue to oversee all accounts to protect your credit from their mistakes.
Also, while you feel obliged to help your children achieve success, take your income and remaining earning years into account before acquiring too much debt. Student loans have rightly earned a bad reputation for saddling today’s young adults with crippling debt. Honda FCU can provide information and options regarding refinancing higher-interest loans. Of course, your finances will rebound faster and your child will be saddled with less debt if you use these tactics to keep education affordable.
BENEFITS OF A JOINT CREDIT CARD ACCOUNT
Young adults often have to learn how to handle their credit card spending responsibly. Fortunately, you don’t have to worry with a joint card that you can monitor. Make it a partnership for success. Your child will have the power to make choices with a safety net while learning to spend wisely. Speak with your Honda FCU financial adviser to learn more about credit cards.